Friday, December 17, 2010

LIFE BEGINS HERE II: At the Cradle

"Unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
The words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 18:3

Two years ago the Christmas story came to life for me like never before. In the fourth week of Advent, I witnessed the birth of my first grandson. Though I have been squeamish at the sight of blood my entire life, watching his gooey, bloody body emerge was beyond glorious! The artist in me (and mother and grandmother) must have taken over. It was a technicolor event. The umbilical cord was the whitest of whites, the veins surging through it were the bluest of blues, and the blood covering his helpless little body was as red as red could be! There was nothing gross about this scene! Nothing at all! It was beautiful: a child had been born!
As the nurses and daddy were tending to mommas needs, I was first to speak into this little one's ears and to witness his squinting eyes as they cautiously opened to a new world. My pinky was privileged to have his tiny little hand grasp it for support. I will never forget these precious initial moments of his life.

As we worshipped in church the next morning, my heart was so full. I could barely sing the Chrismas hymns I have known since childhood. "O Come Let us Adore Him!" Our eyes were drawn to his cherub face. "Joy to the World!" We wanted to shout it from the rooftops: he had finally arrived! I felt in a small sense the awe that Mary and Joseph, the angels and shepherds must have felt on that first Christmas night. As they peered into the face of this helpless infant, they were gazing upon the glorious face of the Son of God. What a night of "firsts"! It's difficult to even imagine!

Life began right there in the manger that cradled our Savior. On that glorious night of Christmas, the Son of God became the son of man. He reduced himself to the life and limitations of a human infant in order to expand our human life and limitations to that of the divine. It seems the only human response should be to crawl into the cradle with Him, to cry out for His mercy and grace. And that is exactly where our life begins.
This Christmas, may the child in you embrace the child of God.
"whoever takes the lowly position of a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:4
An Advent Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I honor you this Christmas. I seek to understand and appreciate that you came as a mere infant. You experienced our very existence and limitations from conception through death. Lord God, help me to see you in this baby Jesus. In this glossed-over picture-perfect Christmas baby, help me to see my Savior. Lord, help me to remove the layers of shellac I've placed over this manger scene for the sake of celebrating my own indulgences.
It feels as though we have glorified your birth in an effort to justify our own carnal appetite for more "things". May I no longer hide behind Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, fancy dinners, gift giving and receiving. Instead may I stand before the manger with the realization that the child born in Bethlehem in a stable is the very one who holds the key to the kingdom of heaven.
Holy Child, this year I join the Magi by bringing you gifts, releasing my grip on the treasures of this world. I give you my gold, the seeking of fortune and fame, of vying for position and striving for personal wealth. I give you my frankincense: the many attempts to "smell good" by pleasing people instead of you, my falsity and pride. I bring my myrrh: the anointing and worship of human life above God; vain attempts to embalm my humanity, to preserve my youth, to feed an insatiable appetite for cosmetic perfection.
I surrender these treasures on earth and long for the treasures of your Holy Spirit. I freely give you all that I have and all that I am. I want you to be first in my life.
In Your name, Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

LIFE BEGINS HERE: At the Cross

"Anyone who loves [her] father or mother more than me is not worthy of me;
anyone who loves [her] son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and anyone who does not take [her] cross
and follow me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds [her] life will lose it,
and whoever loses [her] life for my sake will find it."
Matthew 10:37-39
It's easy to love those who love us. It's easy to give to those who can give back. It's easy to become so engrossed in our to-do list, our parties, our families, our BFF's this time of year, that there is "no room at the inn". We unwittingly hang a "No Vacancy" sign on the door of our hearts. We remain absorbed with Christmas as usual, leaving Jesus immobile, lying in a manger on the mantle. But Jesus is no longer in the cradle, and He doesn't want us to be either! If we are content as babes in Christ, we limit His potential in us. If we stay right where we are, we are of little use to Him. Instead, He woos us to leave the comforts of home, calling us away from the safety of our little circle.
The size of our love circle is a litmus test of discipleship. Who do you love? Who is in your circle? How big is your circle of love? Do you picture your 'love circle' drawn in pencil or permanent marker or chalk? If we are truly Jesus' disciple, our love circle should be ever-expanding, ever growing as we reach out, drawing more and more people toward God's love and light. If you are willing to be used by the Lord, draw your imaginary love circle in chalk. Then you can easily brush away the boundary lines as God stretches your heart, making room for everyone who crosses your path.
Who do you love most? Jesus speaks words that are hard to hear: "Anyone who loves her father or mother...son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."~(I believe even grandbabies are tucked into this statement)." If we love Jesus first and foremost, it is impossible to keep our arms tucked around our own little circle. He fills our love tank so full that we cannot help but love others, even those who may seem unlovable.
Life Begins Here.
It begins when we release our grip on the cozy little world we have created.
Life begins when we give up our life, our ideals, our agenda.
Life begins when we surrender it, give it up, stop controlling the outcome.
Life begins with love. The love that led Jesus to the cross, leads us there too.
"Whoever loses her life for my sake will find it.
Take up your cross and follow me..."~Jesus
Stay tuned for LIFE BEGINS HERE Part 2: At the Cradle!
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Monday, October 25, 2010

NewarkNaz Woven Groups to Begin!

November marks a fresh start for our Woven Life Groups!

Our "tapestry of love" is growing! We have 7 home groups this year and each is busting at the seams with returning women, new women and renewed energy. At last count, there will be 110 women embarking on the journey together this winter. (This is nearly a 50% increase over last year: a tribute to God's love for His women!) We can expect to be "wow-ed" as we discover, experience, and practice the hospitality of God.

If you have signed up to be in a NewarkNaz Woven group, you can expect to receive a postcard invitation in the mail with the name of your hostess and directions to her home. If you've not received this by mid-week, please notify me or your Group Leader. We don't want to miss anyone!

Besides directing and leading our Group Leaders, I am excited to be personally leading a group this year. Yvonne Hammond is my Co-leader and we are meeting on Monday, November 1st in Yvonne's home. Here is a list of the other groups:

Mon, Nov. 1st Leaders: Cheryl Simpson/Karen LeMasters
Hostess: Karan Freeman

Mon, Nov. 1st Leaders: Julie Powless/Patti Busch
Hostess: Julie Powless

Mon, Nov. 1st Leaders: Pauline Slayman/Jayme Diener
Hostess: Pauline Slayman

Mon, Nov. 1st Leaders: Danielle Grady/Colleen Goodhart
Hostess: Colleen Goodhart

Thur, Nov. 4th Leaders: Julie Hunt/Karen Brechbill
Hostess: Julie Hunt

Sat, Nov. 13th Leaders: Jill Gillespie/Candy Link
Hostess: Jill Gillespie

We can't wait to "get to know you" as we "get to know God"! See you next week!

~If you are not in a Woven group, but would like to be you can contact me by commenting on this post or through www.newarknaz.org.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reflections from Monday Night

Wow! Wow! Wow!

What a great night with the girls! "Surely the presence of the Lord was in this place!" This was the comment that several spoke following our time together. I counted 78 ladies sharing around tables as I led from the podium. From where I was perched, all 78 faces were aglow with the glory of the Lord! (or was it the candlelight?:)

Thank you all for coming! And a special thanks to all my leaders for being so outstanding: we know who you are. Thanks also to Pat Weaver for working behind the scenes to feed us. Thanks to Joey and Tina Spencer for their amazing skills in setting up/tearing down.

I thought you might enjoy an encore of the special "Dessert for the Soul" that Kelly (& Mark) blessed us with. Click on the link below and grab a huge serving of God's love for you today!
Then: Go on out there and give someone else a sampling!

show hospitality. make eye contact. smile. listen. lend a hand. love your neighbor as yourself.

"He Loves Us!" (that's something to smile about!)

i love you too! that's why I'm smiling :)

How He Loves Us - Kim Walker / Jesus Culture

Monday, October 4, 2010

Woven Coffee House & Table Talk

TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT!!

Excitement is brewing for our Woven Coffee House & Table Talk, 6pm tonight at Newark Church of the Nazarene, 200 S. Williams Street in Newark, Ohio. What an incredible reponse we've had!

90++ women, ages 22-77, will kick-off another season of Woven at NewarkNaz.

If you've not yet signed up, send me a FB message, email or just show up! Childcare will be provided downstairs. If you don't have time to grab dinner, No Worries! We have a variety of foods prepared to entice you. If you don't want to come alone~Bring a Friend!

It's going to be a great time with "the girls" and with our God!

For those who are planning to attend~See you there! :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Announcing: A New Season of Woven at Newark Naz!

I'M EXCITED TO BEGIN A NEW SEASON OF WOVEN! (I hope you are too!)

We will be kicking off our new year with the


WOVEN COFFEE HOUSE & TABLE TALK
Monday, October 4th
6:30pm
Williams Street Sanctuary

We will be experiencing Lesson One of this year's Woven Workbook, Entertaining Angels, and learning that hospitality is an expression of the very heart of God. (I personally love this topic!) This workbook is shorter than last year's, so our Season Finale will be Monday, February 28th...a commitment of only 6 evenings of incredible connecting!

In the upcoming weeks, you will have an opportunity to sign up for the October 4th event. We would love to see you there, even if you don't plan to be in a Woven group but just need a night out! Feel free to bring a girlfriend; they don't have to attend Newark Naz to join Woven!

As we enter a new season, we have an Open Enrollment policy for those who were in Woven groups last year. If you prefer to remain in the group you were in, that's great! If you would like to try a new group and connect with new ladies, just indicate that on your response card when you sign up for a group or email me at cstiverson@hotmail.com.

Look for us at the table in the foyer at the Newark Naz Williams Street location this Sunday to sign up, ask questions, or just stop and say hello! If you attend the Firehouse or Real Life locations, you can sign up by email or by indicating your interest on the connection card in your worship folder.

Thank you for allowing God to weave our hearts together! We truly are becoming "a tapestry of love!"


Sunday, May 2, 2010

FREE to be You...FREE to be Me!

"...I am the Lord. Those who hope in me will not be disappointed."
Isaiah 49:23

God is so true to His promises.
What an incredible Woven Weekend at Cherry Valley Lodge, Newark, Ohio!
75 Women + 1 Incredible God = Transformed Lives
Lives set free...free to be the unique women He created us to be.
The following excerpts are not exact quotes, they simply reflect the various journeys of women who attended.

"The flyer said to bring a journal. Though I have not personally heard from God in years, I wrote pages and pages in my journal. God truly spoke to me this weekend!"

"I came forward for Cindy to pray for me for sanctification. At dinner later, when I laughed with the women at my table, it felt so different. I believe it is what she spoke about today, the difference between the true self and the false self. I feel joy inside. I feel real."

"I'm so glad I came to this retreat. I made new friends. I came in touch with the person that I long to be and I want to grow in my relationship with God."

"I've been running from my pain and my past. I keep burying it, but it doesn't go away. It just resurfaces in different ways. I realized this weekend that I need to deal with it so I can move on. I feel God has been calling me to serve Him but I have to begin the process of healing first."

"I go to a different church, but we are all sisters in Christ! This weekend has been so awesome and you are an awesome group of women. I'm so blessed to have spent the weekend with you."

This is just a sampling of the testimonies of our ladies. But there were so many more...even weeks and months after the actual event, God was still using our time together to change lives. I believe it is accurate to say that not one woman walked away unchanged. We placed our hope in the Lord and we were certainly NOT DISAPPOINTED!

Thank You, Creator God, for helping us get in touch with our inner child,
for giving us a vision of the unique plans and purposes You have for our lives,
for the courage to heal, to serve, to be set free...free to be me!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

ANNOUNCING Free to be Me: A Woven Women's Weekend

I am so excited about our upcoming WOVEN Weekend, sponsored by Newark Church of the Nazarene: 28 hours in female mode receiving all that God wants to pour into us!

Our women are super-charged already and on their knees in prayer! God is going to do abundantly beyond all that we can ask or imagine!

TAKE A LOOK AT THE FLYER FOR DETAILS...MARK YOUR CALENDAR AND JOIN US!

This WOVEN weekend is open to any and all women.

Register online at http://www.newarknaz.org



Free To Be Me Details...

Please Note: There is an error under OPTIONS: Lunch Saturday is on your own. Overnight Options are 1 night/2 meals.Thanks! Please prayerfully consider joining us!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Ultimate!

I wanted to brighten up your winter blahs with the cover of this newly released book, The Ultimate Bird Lover!
Not only is it a beautiful book filled with full-color photos of our feathered friends, but it is chocked full of interesting stories and advice from bird lovers. IN FACT, Yours Truly is a contributing writer to this book!
"Whistle While You Work" is the story of how I became enchanted, and challenged by a house wren who chose to make my birdfeeder her home. I hope you will take the time to check it out (of the library or at your favorite bookstore or online)! It will be like taking a vacation without leaving home!
The Ultimate Series is a line of books from HCIBooks, the same publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Be watching for another addition to this line of books, The Ultimate Christian Living, which will be released in March of this year. In this book, you will find my story submission, "Baskets of Blessings".
Thanks so much for your support, and Happy Reading!